What is kennel cough?

Kennel cough is an airway infection that causes a dry hacking cough in dogs. Similar to human colds, kennel cough can be caused by a number of different germs (viruses and bacteria). It’s most common in areas where lots of different dogs gather (such as kennels, dog shows and doggy daycare) and can survive in the environment for several weeks. Kennel cough spreads by direct contact between dogs, in the air and on surfaces (such as food bowls and leads).

If you believe your dog has caught Kennel Cough, call your vet for advice. Most dogs improve on their own, but some need treatment from a vet so it's always best to check.

Dogs with kennel cough should be kept away from other dogs and public spaces whilst they are showing symptoms and for two to three weeks after symptoms stop. The best way to prevent kennel cough is to vaccinate against it, especially if your dog mixes with lots of other dogs or spends time in kennels.

Symptoms of kennel cough

Symptoms of kennel cough usually take 3-14 days to develop and then last for 1-3 weeks. Most dogs develop a hacking cough and stay otherwise quite well, but puppies, older dogs, and poorly dogs can develop more serious symptoms such as:

  • A reduced appetite
  • Low energy (lethargy)
  • A high temperature (fever)


When to contact your vet

There are many different conditions that can cause coughing so it’s a good idea to have your dog checked by your vet if they have a severe cough or have been coughing for more than a few days. When visiting your vet, make them aware that your dog has been coughing and wait outside until you are called to prevent spreading kennel cough to other dogs in the waiting room.


Treating kennel cough

Most dogs with kennel cough can be treated at home without medication and recover within 1-3 weeks. However, if your dog has a severe cough or appears unwell your vet may recommend:

  • Anti-inflammatories - to reduce airway inflammation and bring down a high temperature.
  • Antibiotics - antibiotics are very rarely prescribed for kennel cough because most cases are caused by viruses (which don’t respond to antibiotics), but if your dog is very young, old or otherwise unwell, your vet may prescribe them as a precaution.

Caring for a dog with kennel cough

  • Rest and TLC - exercise can make a cough much worse; keep your dog warm, and comfortable and allow them to rest as much as they need.
  • Some dogs with kennel cough can benefit from sitting in a steamy room (perhaps while you have a shower/bath). Never leave your dog alone in a steamy room or force them to stay in it if they aren’t relaxed.
  • Keep your dog away from others - remember your dog will be very contagious whilst they are poorly and can continue to spread kennel cough for 2-3 weeks after their symptoms have cleared. During this time, keep them away from other dogs and public spaces.


How to prevent kennel cough

Vaccination is the best way to prevent kennel cough and is especially necessary if your dog spends lots of time with other dogs or goes into kennels.

Kennel cough vaccine lasts 12 months - so should be repeated every year.

Like any vaccine, the kennel cough vaccine doesn’t give 100%, guaranteed protection, however, it does significantly reduce the chance that your dog will catch kennel cough and reduces symptoms if they do catch it.

Most reputable kennels and doggy daycare centres will request that every dog has the kennel cough vaccination two to three weeks before staying with them.

Speak to your vet about adding kennel cough into your dog’s vaccine schedule.